Posted: November 11, 2013
In 2010, "Enslaved - Odyssey to the West" came out for consoles and sold a little less than half of what the publisher had hoped for. Reasons quoted for this were that it was overshadowed by a number of other AAA titles and that there were quite some glitches. But reviews praised it, especially for its story. With a delay of 3 years, it has now been ported to PC.
"Enslaved" is very loosely based on a classic Chinese tale, "Journey to the West", and plays 150 years in the future. The planet has been ravaged by a brutal war the remainders of which are ruined desolate cities and hostile mechs that attack anyone they encounter. Humanity has scattered far and about, not only threatened by the mechs, but also by mysterious slave hunters that kidnap people without so much as a clue as to where they're taking them. Onboard a ship of slaves-to-be, Trip, a young woman with tech skills manages to escape her cell. This also opens up a way out for fellow prisoner "Monkey", a muscular loner who has subsisted in the wilderness on his own for most of his life. They manage to flee from the crashing slave ship on the last remaining escape pod, but Monkey loses his consciousness. He awakens to find that Trip has put a slave headband on him that will kill him should her heart stop. She wants to return to the community where she came from and knows she would never stand a chance all alone. So Monkey is forced to cooperate: He is the muscle that takes on all hostiles they meet, Trip is the brains with her knowledge of technology.
Gameplay consists of combat, climbing and some mini puzzles. Monkey has a staff he uses to fight with mechs and later on also shoot at ranged targets. The weapon can be upgraded in various ways using energy orbs found in the levels. Considering myself a mediocre gamer, I found fighting to be at an okay-ish difficulty once I had figured out how to block (others said combat was too easy - obviously, your mileage may vary on that). There could be more help with the controls though, special attacks are still described by giving console control pad keys.
Climbing is rather easy since one cannot fall or miss a grip point, all of which are highlighted relatively obviously. Also, in some sequences Monkey steers a hovering disc called the "cloud" over water and ground surfaces - these segments add a little speed to the otherwise pedestrian experience.
The changing relationship between the two main characters is at the centre of the plot. Thus, it's fortunate that voice acting is very good. And when, at times, not a lot is said (Monkey is not a man of many words), the finely motion-captured facial expressions convey all one needs to know. Story, characters, acting - this is where the game really shines and becomes a "page turner". Okay, well, I won't spoil the ending to you, but I think that was the one part where they could have done better. It just left me with "Hmmmmmmmmm."
Other than that, a captivating journey and definitely recommendable.
Helpful notes in case you get the game:
Note 1: Others have reported graphics problems. There are quick INI fixes mentioned on the Steam forums: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=188863412
With those tweaks I didn't have any issues.
Note 2: You can skip cutscenes with the Backspace key (didn't find that mentioned in-game).
Note 3 (since I've seen this problem pop up in several threads, to the point that people called it game-breaking, but hey, the solution is already in-game, so no need to get stuck): For some jumps during climbing, you have to move diagonally, not straight up/left/right. That's possible by pressing two direction keys at once, e.g. W+D http://steamcommunity.com/app/245280/discussions/0/648811670597314811/